Ex-KGB agents hired to rescue kidnapped Arjan
14 April 2004
AMSTERDAM — Relief organisation Artsen zonder Grenzen (AzG) hired a group of former Russian KGB agents about nine months ago to negotiate the release of kidnapped Dutchman Arjan Erkel, a spokesman has said.
Speaking on television current affairs show Nova on Tuesday night, AzG spokesman Ruud Huurman also said the decision was taken in co-operation with the aid worker’s family.
AzG, better known as Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), paid for the group’s travel and accommodation costs, but Huurman refused to reveal how much money changed hands. He said the Dutch Foreign Ministry also had contact with the former Russian spies.
Erkel, 34, was freed on Sunday, almost 20 months after he was taken hostage at gunpoint while working as head of mission for AzG in the Russian republic Dagestan in August 2002. He was flown home to Rotterdam Airport from Moscow on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, the chairman of a Russian intelligence veterans group, Valentin Velichko, also said on Nova that a blindfolded Erkel was “handed over” and released in the Dagestan capital Makhachkala, the scene of his disappearance.
Erkel was left at a pre-arranged spot by his kidnappers and picked up by a couple of the former KGB agents. Huurman said that no ransom money was paid, a statement confirmed by Velichko, public news service NOS reported.
Velichko also said the kidnappers had decided some time ago to release Erkel — who was often confined to darkened cellars throughout his ordeal — but chose at that time to release a kidnapped male youth instead. Erkel’s release was therefore delayed.
The organisation of former spies is reportedly an obscure club which offers protection to foreigners in exchange for payment. The earnings are deposited in a fund to supplement the pension of former KGB spies.
Erkel now intends to take 12 months off to come to terms with the kidnapping and his “bad experiences”, but a psychologist with the Institute for Psychotrauma, Peter van der Velden, could not confirm whether that intention was wise.
In any case, he said it takes most people who have been held hostage for an extended period some time before they adjust to freedom. Van der Velden said such people needed time to learn how to start making their own decisions again.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news